Head Like a Hole

I was reading the news on my mobile after getting back from uni. One story from the BBC jumped out at me and grabbed me by the testies.

“Ministers ‘consider alternatives’ to 5.2% benefits rise”

The full report can be read here, but I’ll post some excepts with the first thing that came into my head.

Ministers are considering alternatives to an inflation-linked rise to benefits, government sources have said.

Benefits are due to go up by 5.2% from next April, in line with September’s inflation figures.

Right, let’s break this down, I’ll be looking at this from the mental health nursing angle. According to wikipedia inflation is:

In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy.

According to the BBC again, inflation for both the Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) are both 5.2%. As this is a positive number, I’ll assume that prices are increasing at 5.2% per month because that’s both the period data are collected for and frequency of release.

But the government is worried about the cost of such hikes and the impact on public opinion given the current low wage increases. Fair one; everyone would like a bit more money in their pocket, and it’s true that people are feeling the pinch.

Earlier in the article they say that “It is not thought that any change to the planned 5.2% rise in pensions is being considered”. What happened to us all being in this together? Is this another case of the deserving and undeserving poor? Not that I’m advocating that we freeze pensioners, but what about the mentally ill? increasing age is associated with an increased propensity to vote Conservative, so would the government shoot themselves in the foot? Doubtful.

Scoring opinion points on the backs of people who can’t find jobs or are unable to work is quite frankly abhorrent. Our wonderful deputy PM, Nick Clegg, said the government will “not balance the books on the backs of the poor”, I’m not sure how much I trust this. Okay, the figure quoted in this article are from The Institute of Fiscal Studies (The IFS). They have calculated that the 5.2% September inflation figure will add £1.8bn to welfare spending over the next year. From the article again:

It [the IFS]said freezing all benefits and pensions would save about £10bn and linking benefits increases to wage rises would save £5bn.

A further option of switching from the September inflation figure to an average inflation figure calculated over six months could save about £1.4bn, the IFS added.

Will this be the governments solution? People with severe mental illness that I know receive higher rate care and lower rate mobility for DLA, this adds up to a grand total of £93.15 per week. Not a lot to live on when, according to Rentright.com, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom property is £852 per month!

No one can deny that some form of occupation can be therapeutic for most people, but according to patient.co.uk

Those with low incomes are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and poverty effectively causing or contributing to poor mental health. Observationally, both individual and neighbourhood deprivation increase the risk of poor general and mental health. The rates of admission for acute psychiatric care tend to be higher in deprived areas.

This seems pretty to the point, and brings me back to the BBC article. What oversight will the government put into place to ensure that some the most vulnerable members of society aren’t pushed further into poverty to make up a budget short fall? Well, according to Nick Clegg we won’t know because he isn’t going to “provide a running commentary on decisions and debates which haven’t even been held in government yet”.  Okay, Nick, but again how are we meant to trust you?

What this report really makes me think of are the lyrics to Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails

God money’s not looking for the cure.
God money’s not concerned about the sick among the pure.
God money let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.
The god of money’s not one to choose

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6 thoughts on “Head Like a Hole

    • A friend of mine went to a “jobs fair” the other day. Apparently there were precious few actual jobs, mostly unpaid “work experience” placements in which the “employers” were quite open about the fact that there wouldn’t be a job at the end of them.

      Suddenly that link starts to seem a lot less like satire.

  1. What gets me Zarathustra is how voluntary work [as opposed to “work experience” or “placements”] has no value now if it’s undertaken by those in receipt of benefits, and a lot of mental health service users do voluntary work which directly benefits the health service. This is now frowned upon unless it leads to paid work, or is done in addition to paid work. So contributing to a nurses education for example would be deemed as no good but unpaid forced shelf stacking/picking up litter as good ‘work experience’.

  2. “Will this be the governments solution? People with severe mental illness that I know receive higher rate care and lower rate mobility for DLA, this adds up to a grand total of £93.15 per week. Not a lot to live on when, according to Rentright.com, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom property is £852 per month!” – I have to say that this give a bit of a false impression of how little income someone on benefits may have…having been there myself. When I was caring for my husband (who had a brain tumour) he was on this rate of DLA, but you don’t JUST get the DLA, you also get (depending on your circumstances) JSA, ESA or in our case Income Support, then you also get Housing and Council Tax benefit, as there were 2 of us and 2 children we also got ICA (carers allowance for me as his carer) and child benefit/tax credits. As my son also received the same rate of DLA for his Autism/ADHD/Epilepsy/Dyspraxia (etc) this meant a grand total of over £2000 (closer to £2500) per month income, which after utility bills was entirely a disposable income!! (no rent/council tax to pay due to the benefits)

    Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying everyone on benefits gets such a massive income (I did explain why we got so much – 2 disabled people in same household) but there is a need to show it is not just DLA that people get.

    Now, should the DLA recipient be single of course the total income will be lower; have no kids – lower; also should this person be working their total income may actually be lower again, but there is a good chance that they are doing quite well financially. And top up benefits such as child and working tax credits can help when people are working.The real problems kick in when people are told they cannot get the help…

    After my husband died our household income went down by over £1000 per month! Later I was diagnosed with BPD and have been having a really bad time, to the point I left work recently, now I am entitled to nothing, I can’t claim ESA/JSA or IS as I have a new partner with his own income, and my GP will not support my DLA claim saying I ‘want’ but do not ‘need’ the help I specified in the claim pack – so overall having a mortgage, council tax, both my children still at home, my partners children living with their mothers, we now end up much worse off than when I lived on benefits with my husband (also I didn’t want to be n benefits then and chose to take a drop in income by working rather than stay on benefits entirely).

    Those who work (especially part-time) are actually more likely to be worse off than those who are living entirely off benefits, the only ones worse off on benefits are those not claiming all they should be.

    I’m no having a moan at people on benefits, I was one for a long time, with good reason due to my husband and sons conditions. But, seriously how many wages get increased by 5.2% in line with inflation?

    And as for average monthly rent, maybe based on London pricing £852 is a one bedroom property, but where I live you can get a 3/4 bed house for that amount!

    Despite all this I’m not saying that freezing/cutting benefits is something that should occur as many vulnerable people really need these safety nets, but there are also those smart enough to know how well off you can be, who abuse the system, while the most needy, unaware of how much they should/could be getting are the ones struggling!

    The real thing that needs to happen is to find those people who are not getting all they are entitled to – and they are unlikely to come forward given they don’t know they are missing out or maybe (due to mental/physical health problems) just don’t want to make a fuss/complain about how little income they have, but as with all government institutions the different arms of the benefit system work separately, independently and do not communicate (unless someone is overpaid and they want money back!) so they do not inform people that they should also be getting X/Y/and Z because they are getting A/B and C.

    So in summary the following needs to happen:
    – help for those that need it, not GP’s preventing them getting help
    – deal with people abusing the system
    – find people who are not claiming all they should be

    As for raising/cutting/freezing benefits, wouldn’t the fairer thing be to alter them in line with wages? which while I don’t know the average increase (ignoring anomloys such as directors 1000% increases), I do know that no-one I know has had any where near 5.2% pay increase, 2.5% would be a huge bonus for most of them as even that is more than they would normally get!

  3. I think the benefits issue detracts from pressing issues which governments fail to address – why the minimum wage is not good enough – it should be high enough for people to live on without housing benefit or tax credits i.e. afford commercial rent, travel or vehicle, pay bills, have some disposable income for a leisure pursuit, have a holiday once a year. That’s hardly a millionaires lifestyle. We prop up crap employers paying low wages and ‘making work pay’ should mean that it’s possible to live and not merely exist hand to mouth on a minimum wage. People working part-time really suffer and there should be top-ups for those who need to work no more than 16-20 hours because of their health/disability. Problem is, working tax credit for people working 16 hrs is only available to lone parents, those with dependents or those already on some DLA.
    I think we need:

    – a higher minimum wage which doesn’t require benefit top-ups because it is enough to live on
    – more affordable housing
    – more help to people working part-time either because they need to or because they can’t find anything else [people doing endless streams of low paid temporary work/JSA yo-yoing are in the very worst position of all
    – more flexibility in the benefits system so that people can try out working [with appropriate top-ups] and go back onto benefits as required, a hop-on/off system, so that if a person can work say 3 months of the year this is possible to do so without arduous assessments. If people have a guaranteed level of income without arduous endless assessments they are more likely to be able to take steps to working or doing some time limited work. As it currently stands the leap is too great for many because being ‘fit for work’ means having to be able to handle a low paid work /lowest level of benefit yo-yo.
    -reinstate and expand the help available to people to get into work with a safety net.
    -a third and fourth category between fit for full time work or not at all where those who need to remain doing voluntary work can do so if that is what maintains their health and stability best

  4. Pingback: People with Mental Health Problems – Sick, Stupid, Scroungers or Stigmatised, Smart, Super-heros? | Day in the life of a Busy Gal…

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